I have made myself a waterproof bucket hat, which (if I say so myself) has turned out rather well. I was even glad of the rain last night so that I could wear it for a walk over to a friend’s house for New Year drinks. Here’s how it came about.
I am a perfectionist. Everyone says so, it must be true. I do recognise some aspects of my character that smack of perfectionism. Often I put off buying something I need because I can’t find the perfect version (the one I see when I imagine the missing something), and I’m not prepared to settle for second best. With clothes this can be the route to wardrobe meltdown, because the reason for the absence of the perfect version in the shops is simple: fashion. And although fashions come and go, it can take years for a particular colour or style to reappear.
In the meantime, my irreplaceably figure-enhancing jeans get more faded and ragged, my perfect long sleeved white shirt morphs into a summer blouse because the cuffs and collar became too frayed to be wearable, and my cashmere sweater that is exactly the right colour to go with a dozen items in my wardrobe has to be relegated to weekend wear because it has been darned more than is good for it. I went without new trousers for the best part of a decade, save for a few pairs I made myself, because I can’t stand that cold gap around the midriff that results from tops refusing to stay tucked into low rise waistbands. What a ridiculous fashion that was, but I digress.
The solution is often to get out the sewing machine or knitting needles, but that doesn’t work every time. Fabrics, yarns and patterns are as fashion-sensitive as anything else, and it simply isn’t cost-effective to make some garments (eg plain, fine gauge knitwear) because the yarn costs considerably more than a High Street jumper would. I also draw the line at making jeans because, although my trusty Bernina sews through multiple layers of denim like a knife through butter, I don’t have the pattern-cutting skills to get a good fit. Nor a ready supply of copper rivets. And some garments aren’t worth my precious leisure time; I gave up making formal shirts years ago, because if I’m going to spend an age over collars, cuffs, plackets, etc then I’d rather be making a jacket and, in any case, frankly Marks and Spencer do as good a job on a shirt as I do.
I have wanted a rain hat for a while now. I walk fast, with a backpack if I have anything to carry, so that I can swing my arms and get a good speed going. An umbrella just interferes with the process of getting from A to B and is annoying. It is also pretty much useless on a bicycle. Hooded anoraks don’t really work for me because I have a long neck and the hoods are never tall enough to be comfortable, and an anorak is another garment that doesn’t seem worth the effort of making – let somebody else figure out how to stuff the thing with goose down, life is too short. But a rain hat is useful in all sorts of situations, like when juggling two bags of fruit and vegetables at the market stall on a Saturday morning while trying to get my purse out to pay, and it folds up small to be even more portable than a tiny umbrella.
My search for the perfect rain hat has taken me to many shops. They are not common items of headwear in the 21st Century, and those that are available seem to be made to appeal to the type of woman who wants something to wear on a damp grouse moor. In Skipton, Harrogate and Ilkley I have seen plenty of waxed cotton hats with checked linings that would go well with a Barbour jacket. I was looking for something a little less “country”, lighter in weight, washable and with waterproof properties that don’t depend on repeated application of what, in this household, we call Barbour juice. I’ve never much liked waxed cotton, and I don’t really want Barbour juice in my hair.
With time on my hands between Christmas and New Year, I needed a sewing project and thought that making a bucket hat couldn’t be that difficult. I dug out the remnants of some dark red waterproof fabric that I once made a short raincoat from (Style 1564 – I made the culottes too) and concluded that there might just be enough. Then I turned to the internet, like you do, for advice and a pattern. I found this amazing tutorial in the Make: ezine that shows how to create a hat (and a bag) from waterproof material made by ironing layers of supermarket carrier bags to fuse them together – I kid you not.
This was a tempting project, but American supermarket bags look a lot more stylish than our UK ones. I rummaged in the kitchen cupboard and found Asda carriers bearing the message “Saving you money every day” and Sainsbury’s ones with “Try something new today” on them – neither are sentiments that I want to display on my headgear, rain or shine. The Morrisons ones just bear the store name and logo and are translucent. Sainsbury’s bags are at least an interesting orange. Both Waitrose and Tesco bags look possible with their green and white or blue and white stripes, but the store logos take up a large portion of the bag. I will have to look out for more promising carriers and give bag fusing a go some other time. But Betz White’s PDF bucket hat pattern on the Make: website looked suitable, so I went with that. The brim is large enough to keep rain off the face without being too Paddington Bear.
I did have to make some adjustments to the pattern, because it is for a 23″ head which is an inch bigger than mine. A ¼” seam allowance is included in the pattern pieces. I just took larger seam allowances, making the side of the hat first and checking it fitted before proceeding. The plastic bag hat doesn’t have to be lined because plastic doesn’t fray, but my fabric hat needed a lining. I found a 3.2m length of tartan-print cotton with some red in it that I figured I could spare a piece of, as it’s been sitting in a blanket box, unused, for the best part of three decades. It makes a cheery lining.
How to make the rain hat
So, to make my version of the hat, you need to cut one top, two side pieces (on the fold) and two brim pieces (also on the fold) in a waterproof fabric and the same in lining fabric. I had so little of the waterproof fabric that I couldn’t cut the sides and brim on the straight grain, but as they curve all the way round the hat, it won’t matter too much – right? But I did take care to match the checks of the lining.
From the scraps remaining of waterproof fabric I cut a 37″ (94cm) long, 1.4″ (36mm) wide strip to use to bind the edge of the brim. I’d have liked to cut it on the bias, but there wasn’t enough. Using this binding finishes off the brim neatly and ensures that the edge is waterproof. It also removes the need to sew the hat and lining right sides together and then turn them through a small gap, which is a fiddly process. The Make: hat has a ribbon stuck on, covering the join between the hat side and the brim, but I didn’t bother with that.
You also need to cut two iron-on interfacing pieces on the fold using the brim pattern.
The sewing steps are:
- Pin the sides of the lining right sides together to form a circle and try it on (with the shorter circular edge upwards). Adjust the size of the seam allowance if necessary to get a good fit, then sew. Press the seams open. Place the seams together to find the centre of each of the two pieces of fabric (where the folds are) and mark the fold on the wrong side at the edges of the fabric (4 marks).
- Fold the circle of lining that is the top of the hat in half and mark the fold on the wrong side at the edges of the fabric. Then fold again at 90º to the first fold, so that the two marks are together, and make two more marks at the new folds.
- Pin the lining top into the shorter edge of the lining side, right sides together, matching the marks/seams. If you have made the hat bigger or smaller than intended by adjusting the seam allowances, then the raw edges will not be together, just position the top where it needs to be in order to fit when sewing ¼” from the edge of the side piece. Use lots of pins, it’s like putting the head of a sleeve into its armhole. Sew the seam with the top piece underneath and the side piece on top, so that you can control the fullness of the fabric. Try it on at this stage and make sure it still fits.
- Press the seam downwards, towards the hat side, and top stitch close to the seam to hold the seam allowances in place.
- Now attach the brim to the side piece, again matching marks/seams and with the help of lots of pins. Press this seam downwards, towards the brim. Just tack it in place, it will be stitched later when the lining is in the hat.
- Iron interfacing onto the brim pieces of the main fabric and then follow steps 1-5 above to make the hat itself. When sewing the side seams, be sure to use the same seam allowance as for the lining. You may need to snip the brim seam allowance every few inches to get it to press downwards.
- Fit the lining into the hat, wrong sides together, matching seams. Tack along the seam line where the brim is joined to the side, through both layers, to hold the lining in exactly the right place prior to topstitching. Then topstitch the brim close to the brim/side seam to keep the seam allowances in place.
- Smooth the brims away from the brim/side seam and pin them together around the edge. It is more important that the brim lining lies smoothly than that the edges of lining and main fabric are together. Trim around the edge if necessary so that the lining and main fabric are even and then zigzag stitch right the way around the brim to hold the edges together.
- Make the binding by folding the 1.4″ strip in half lengthwise, wrong sides together, and pressing the fold. Then open it out and fold each long edge in to the centre fold and press both folds. Finally, fold it in half along the original fold line, with the long edges both folded in, and press again.
- Now enclose the brim edge seam by applying the binding. Open the binding out and pin it to the outside (main fabric) of the brim, right sides together and raw edges even, and stitch in the fold line nearest the edge. Turn it under to enclose the edge and tack it in position. Topstitch the binding on the outside close to the seam to hold the underside in place. To deal with the join, either work out the exact length needed and seam the binding before applying it, or just tuck the end under when you get to it. If you are going to seam it, a diagonal seam will be less bulky than a straight one.
- If you wish, work a few more rounds of topstitching regularly spaced across the rim. This helps to stiffen the brim and to stop the interfacing coming unstuck.
The finished hat is completely reversible, but only one side is waterproof so I can’t see me wearing it the other way out. If you can’t find raincoat material and resort to using ordinary cotton and then treating the finished hat with proofing spray, it would make sense to proof both sides to allow it to be used either way.
My New Year resolution is to stash-bust by making more things, like this hat, that don’t involve buying any new materials. That should save me some money as well as freeing up storage space. What’s your crafting New Year resolution?